This 1997 film, based on a story Luc Besson developed when he was a kid, ranks among our most-requested reviews. With the “Ultimate Edition” DVD about to be released, we’re fulfilling that request.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director: Luc Besson
Writers: Luc Besson., Robert Mark Kamen.

Features:

Bruce Willis…Korben Dallas
Gary Oldman…Zorg
Ian Holm…Vito Cornelius

Milla Jovovich…Leeloo
Gary Oldman…Zorg
Chris Tucker…Ruby Rhod

Available at Amazon.com (Ultimate Edition Preorder) and Amazon.ca (Regular Version)

Premise:

An alien race who function very like Babylon Five’s Vorlon (if the Vorlon looked like ducks in deep-sea-diving gear) have created a weapon that will protect from a recurrent evil force, and appointed an order of Terran priests to guard the secret. Bruce Willis plays a former soldier turned cabbie in a retro-futuristic, Gernsbackian NYC. He finds himself in the midst of plot convolutions when the evil force makes its return engagement, a sinister human hires mercenary shape-shifting dog people to assist the evil force, and one part of the alien weapon finds its way into our hero’s cab. This particular part takes the form of a genetically enhanced redhead with significant language issues and minimal nudity taboo.

In case you haven’t guessed, Fifth Element shouldn’t be approached as serious SF. It’s a comic-book movie (though not, in fact, based on a comic), with the emphasis on action and humour.

High Point:

1.I found it difficult to identify a single “high point.” The sense of fun that pervades this movie sells it. Of the goofier scenes, the clean-up in Zorg’s office amused me the most.

2.The film’s world may be silly, but it’s internally consistent.

Low Point:

1. The apparent death-by-freezing of several annoying, but morally upright characters as a cheap joke. Yeah, they turn up alive awhile later, but I still found the end to that fairly slapstick scene out of character for this film, with its particular message.

2. The reconstruction of Leeloo with the use of comic-book science. Even for this movie, the results are scientifically ridiculous, and the effects, the weakest in the film.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6

Effects: 5/6. Hats off to Mark Stetson and the others who created the film’s effects.

Story: 3/6: The story is a fairly silly, good-vs-evil deal, with a few interesting twists. It switches location a lot (again, much like many comics), introducing settings and characters that will never really be developed.

Acting: 4/6: Willis works as our cartoony hero, and Gary Oldman does well as a campy villain. No one is called to rise above that level, and the parodic performances grow wearisome at times.

Production: 6/6 Besson waited until he’d produced some hits, so that he could have the time and budget to make the film exactly as he wanted it. This is a Star Wars(original trilogy)-level spectacle.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Overall: 5/6. This film works, if you view it as the filmmakers obviously intended. Try not to groan when the story reveals the truth about the “fifth element”– assuming you don’t see that particular plot development coming a light-year off.

In total, The Fifth Element receives 31/42.